The next morning found the maids and guardsmen in a flurry as they prepared for the day. It was unusual for royal members to be present for executions, but with the type of prisoners being punished it was inevitable. The biggest gossip was the possible subject of Nikki being there for all three deaths, though no one confirmed or denied it.
Sesshomaru sat beside her at breakfast; he couldn’t tell what she was planning for the day. She wasn’t dressed any different than she normally would and was just as peaceful as she would be any other day as of this point. Under the table he held her hand and felt her squeeze his every so often. He wanted to shake her, demand what she was planning, if she was going or not and hoped it was or not.
“I’ll see you afterwards,” she said softly as he nodded, while standing by the entrance. Sesshomaru hugged her as she snuggled into his arms a bit. Seiji looked at Sesshomaru as he shrugged and prepared to go outside.
“Guess then she’s not going,” Seiji said to him as he nodded in agreement.
“We have determined that, after what happened with the trial, its better safe than sorry,” Sesshomaru informed him as Seiji shrugged and nodded in agreement. The ladies were also no attending, neither were the princesses. Kagome was resting, as it took quite a bit to remove Mai’s shoulder and they had to lock Higashi up to do it. If it hadn’t been for Inuyasha and his father’s presence, she’d have been terrified from the roars Higashi gave off.
“Alright,” Inuyasha said as he walked up to them, “we’re ready.”
“How is the old man?” Seiji asked him curiously.
“Fine,” Inuyasha answered as Seiji nodded as Jiro walked up to them, “scared the shit out of Kagome though. A neko’s roar is so different from an inu’s that she was unprepared for it.” Jiro smirked and shrugged as he thought about it. “But the mark is successfully removed; your mother’s smarting from it.”
“I always wondered if it hurt,” Jiro mused as Inuyasha nodded.
“By the screams from Mai, it hurt,” Inuyasha confirmed as the two boys nodded. “But we should head out; the faster we get out there the faster we can get done.” They all nodded in agreement and headed out of the castle.
Youkai are quite observant, when they want to be. Hanyou are equally observant, if not more, for their own safety. No one noticed the small hanyou dressed in a training gi, with a set of swords strapped to her waist, as she slid out of the castle and headed into the dungeons. She sighed and steadied herself as she walked down the stairs and past the cells. She noticed one for each of the youkai in question; the guardsmen who were sentenced to death were relaxing with their final meals.
She walked up to the final cell and looked in at the dirtied, miserable, creature curled up and muttering to herself. She almost felt pity as she looked through the bars at the once regal lady. When it was realized she was there, the woman sat up and faced her, her hand never leaving her left shoulder.
“I guess it hurt,” she said softly as she looked at the woman.
“A little,” her mother replied darkly, “though your father’s roars terrified the girl.” She smirked as she listened to the woman and nodded.
“I’d imagine so,” she mused as her mother watched her. “He’s not exactly a purring kitten.”
“You shouldn’t be down here,” her mother informed her as she chuckled and nodded.
“No, I shouldn’t be,” she agreed with a nod, “When they see me outside they will be quite stunned, I’m sure they’ll even say I’m not ready to witness the executions. I was barely able to handle listening to your trial.” Mai nodded as she listened.
“You’re going out in public and you’re not in a proper kimono,” her mother quipped.
“No,” Nikki whispered as she leaned forward knowing her mother couldn’t reach her if she wanted to, “because I’m not going to a ball or dinner or luncheon or whatever…I’m going to your execution, I figured you’d appreciate an outfit you hated to see me in.” Mai glared at her. “But that’s not what today’s visit is all about.”
“It’s not?” her mother groused. Nikki almost pitied her; she recognized the fear in her mother’s eyes when she mentioned execution but the woman was so far detached there was no kindness, no love for her daughter in her voice.
“No,” Nikki replied shaking her head. “I came down because I figured, before you died, you should be informed that you were wrong about me. I was never a wild animal, I was always a princess, just not what you determined what a princess was.” Mai snorted as Nikki smirked at her. It was almost like when they’d converse in the past, almost. “Despite all that you’ve done to me, I’ve survived. I get a reward for my survival now.”
“Oh really?” Mai demanded. “And what is your reward?”
“Didn’t you think it odd that Lord Sesshomaru followed father home?” Nikki asked him as she leaned back a little and thought about it. She was surprised she wasn’t more uptight, she wasn’t more afraid to be in the dungeons. She knew she’d never be comfortable enough to walk into one of the cells again, but she figured she’d be shaking at this. Mai just looked at her as she waited to hear. “He wouldn’t leave my side, not as I recovered from the injuries of being in here, and not after I tried to throw myself from one of the towers because of you. Actually the only reason he’s away from me right now is because I didn’t tell him I was going to the executions.”
“So?” Mai barked.
“Sesshomaru, after I’ve fully recovered, has asked me to back with him to the Western Lands, mother,” Nikki snarled as her mother looked at her surprised, “and when we’re both prepared, to mate him.” Mai looked at her stunned as Nikki’s face went from furious looking to quite amused. “I never had a lack of suitors, mother, I had one very possessive one that scared them all away. When you brought in those idiots and suitors, all I had to do was tell them who I was writing and they left on their own. First one even muttered how he wasn’t stupid to touch the western prince’s things.”
“You’re going to mate Sesshomaru?” Mai repeated to make certain she heard her right. Nikki nodded.
“Yes, mother, one day I’m going to mate Lord Sesshomaru of the Western Lands,” Nikki confirmed before standing up. “Which means, all this trouble you’ve caused for no reason, your death, their deaths,” she waved a hand at the guardsmen, “it’s your fault and no one else’s.”
“That’s impossible!” Mai started to bark at her. “You’re unfit for a mate like that!” Nikki snorted at her.
“Obviously, I’m more fit than you are,” Nikki snapped back as her mother grew a dark look. “Goodbye mother.” Nikki left the dungeons, head held high, as her mother was now wide awake and screaming at her what a disgrace she was in her wake. Nikki closed the door, it was a struggle honestly, and sighed as she shook her head. She crouched down and held her head as her own self doubts crept up on her.
“Nikki!” she heard her father call. She stood and looked up at him as he walked up to her with Nishi in his wake looking at her stunned. “What are you doing?” Nikki looked down as she thought of what she did.
“I went to say goodbye to mother,” she told him softly as the two lords looked at her surprised. “I wanted to prove to her she was wrong about me.” Higashi sighed as he pulled her into a crushing hug and listened. “I told her about my pending courtship with Sesshomaru.” Nishi nodded as he listened and looked around as Higashi listened, Nikki had just given her mother one of the cruelest things to her mother on the day she was determined to die. She gave her what she wanted.
“She must have been throwing a fit when you walked out of there,” Higashi mused as he held her. Nikki nodded silently as she remained in her father’s arms. “I can’t imagine she appreciated the outfit either.”
“She didn’t,” Nikki confirmed. “She was upset that I’d be in public watching the executions in it.” Higashi and Nishi both looked at her surprised as she held her hand up before they could argue. “I sat down and I debated for hours yesterday, I came up with every reason why I shouldn’t be out there but the list of why I should, while shorter, was more compelling.” Nishi listened to her and wanted to smirk at her.
“Like?” he asked her curiously.
“I need the closure,” Nikki answered as he nodded while listening.
“That is a valid point,” Nishi replied as he looked at Higashi. “If the girl is seen to be suffering from what she sees, we can always have Sesshomaru bring her back to the castle. He was only going to represent her.” Higashi sighed as he looked down at her and thought about it silently. They all needed closure; this was how she had determined she’d receive it.
“Then we’ll go,” Higashi told her as she looked up at her father, “we’ll go together.” Nikki nodded as he sighed and hugged her again as he thought about it all. The three turned to head off to the execution area to see the three ladies walking up to them.
“Nikki,” Kayura said as they found her, “you’re out here?”
“Yes,” Nikki said bowing to them, “I’m getting ready to go with them to watch the executions.”
“You don’t have to do this,” Naoko said gently as Nikki sighed and nodded.
“Yes, I do,” she answered as they looked at her curiously, “If I am to ever get beyond all of this, I need to watch it through to the end.” Kayura looked to Izayoi as she nodded in agreement. “I would never expect such fine ladies to watch this gruesome display of power, but I need to get to the end.”
“You are also a fine lady,” Naoko reminded her as she walked up to her. She smiled as she looked at the younger female and sighed. “You are as fine as any of my daughters, this display isn’t meant for your eyes either. But your depression has scared us, it’s warranted, but we have been worried. If this will help you, then so be it.”
“I’m sorry I’ve caused you all so much grief and stress,” Nikki replied with a bow to the three ladies. “But I’m not a victim, at least not anymore. I’ve visited with mother, I know everything she said within her testimony; I’ve got to see this to the end now. The guardsmen who were found not guilty enough to die, I’ve forgiven them for their parts, now I need to see the fates of the final pieces.”
“You’re right in that we will not be present,” Izayoi said with a weak smile as she looked at the young woman who seemed to go from a kitten to an adult within the time they were there, “and you are most welcome to join us if you find you can’t make it through all three.” Nikki bowed to them all as Nishi and Higashi watched her curiously. The two led her outside to where the royal members were observing everything and Nikki was seated between her father and oldest brother.
“What is Nikki doing out here?” Sesshomaru demanded once he noticed her seated and speaking softly with Seiji about the set up.
“She’s doing what she feels is best,” Nishi answered as Sesshomaru growled frustrated. “You can’t control that one, boy; I figured you’d realized that by now.” Sesshomaru sighed and nodded in agreement.
“I’m not trying to, I also don’t want to be pulling her up when she dives off the building again.” Sesshomaru replied as his father sighed and nodded.
The night after Sesshomaru had saved Nikki had been a very upsetting one. Nikki had slept in Sesshomaru’s room because once he had her in his arms, he had refused to let her go for fear she’d try it again when he wasn’t looking. Nishi had found them as Nikki slept wrapped up and Sesshomaru silently crying against her, afraid of what had almost happened. He knew Sesshomaru couldn’t do that multiple times, it had almost killed him that time. Nishi knew he’d dive off a castle to save her multiple times, without thought or question, but the idea of her doing it herself was what had truly been terrifying.
“The taiji-ya are preparing for the guardsmen,” Seiji informed Nikki as she nodded and watched. “Itsuo and Akihiko won’t know what hit them with this lot.” Nikki nodded in agreement as she noticed Sango and her younger brother dressed in full gear.
“Now Kouga will be able to see her throw that boomerang,” Nikki mused as Seiji chuckled and nodded in agreement. Kouga looked down the line confused, surprised to see Nikki down there, but uncertain why he head his name. “She was explaining it’s quite heavy, it’s a feat for her to be able to wield that weapon.”
“How long do you give them?” Ryo joked as they released the two youkai from their shackles. The two were armed minimally, they were allowed to defend themselves and Takeshi insisted it’d show case what his taiji-ya could truly do.
“Not even ten minutes,” Nikki replied softly as they watched Itsuo just shake his head. He transformed into his larger form as Sango’s boomerang flew through the air and quickly killed him. Akihiko watched as he calculated what was happening. Kouga was exclaiming about the girl that could throw the boomerang to his brother as Nikki listened in. They watched as the taiji-ya fell back and waited for Akihiko’s attack.
“He’s a dangerous youkai,” Higashi muttered to Minami.
“Where did you find such a soldier?” Minami asked as he nodded in agreement.
“His parents brought him to me, asked me if he could be of use,” Higashi answered as he sat back and looked at him, “he has anger issues. We were able to control those issues. At least, I figured we were able to.” Minami nodded as he listened as they all watched Akihiko drop his sword and turn towards them.
“Are you so cowardly, my lord that you would send human children against me?” he demanded loudly as everyone looked at him surprised. “Are you so cowardly that you refuse to face me yourself, knowing you’d lose?” Higashi shook his head as he realized what he was doing. He sat back as he tried to ignore him.
“Father?” Sango questioned as their father walked up to them.
“You did a fine throw there, Sango,” he praised on her killing the first youkai. “This one is a bit smarter than the second; he’s trying to challenge the lord.”
“But…is he allowed to do that?” the boy asked surprised as his father shrugged and nodded.
“Yes, he’s allowed,” Takeshi answered with a shrug. “It’s up to the lord in question whether or not he wishes to acknowledge it and act upon the challenge.” They all looked at Higashi as he seemed to be grumbling to himself.
“He shouldn’t take the bait, it’s not wise,” Sango said as if advising the lord herself. Her father nodded in agreement, no good could come from a full out youkai fight.
“Father, he needs to be handled,” Nikki said softly as he sighed and nodded. “You are given the choice, but someone should go out there and handle this situation.” Higashi nodded again, but as he prepared to get up, Nikki was standing and walking towards the field. Higashi watched stunned as Sesshomaru looked down the line furious.
“What in the hell is she doing?” Sesshomaru barked at the older youkai.
“Boy, if I knew what my daughter were thinking, I’d probably be dead,” Higashi snapped back as he watched her. Sesshomaru moved to get up but Higashi held up his hand, Nishi and Inuyasha taking the signal to hold Sesshomaru down. “I don’t think following her is wise.”
“She is not fighting,” Sesshomaru snarled furious as he fought to get away from the two.
“If you don’t let her, you’ll have to fight her,” Inuyasha grunted as he got elbowed hard in the chest. His father nodded mutely as he watched, not struggling half as hard as his youngest son to control his oldest.
Nikki stopped walking once she was a few feet from Akihiko and stared at him. He smirked as he inspected her, unimpressed by what he saw. He chuckled as he circled her, he had seen her at her lowest, he didn’t fear her. She didn’t look half that impressed either though.
“I’ve taken you out before, girl,” he sneered as he picked up the sword he stood in the ground. Nikki shrugged with a nod.
“Yeah, while chained up to a wall,” she replied as she looked prepared to fight him. “Shame you couldn’t test you true strength then, beat the warrior princess. Let’s see if you can now.”
“Yes,” Akihiko said with a grin, “let’s see if I can now.” As fast as he charged her, her sword was out and they started their own fight. Higashi and Sesshomaru watched stunned as Nikki, who hasn’t trained since they all saw her at the ball, fought against one of Higashi’s best fighters and was holding her own amazingly well. None of the males on the field seemed to believe it was Nikki as she fought so well, they weren’t certain if she’d be able to even face him after all he had done to her. Sango smirked as she watched the overly confident youkai attack the smaller hanyou and she deflect the attack. She was thrilled to watch as Nikki, the one Kagome told her about from the ball, started to wake up.
“She’s toying with him,” Jiro said surprised as they watched the battle draw out. “Father, what’s she doing? Why isn’t she just killing him already?” Higashi shrugged as they all just stared stunned as Nikki fought back but lay no ending hits against the youkai.
“She’s proving a point,” Kita proclaimed amused.
“A point?” Kouga asked confused as his father chuckled and nodded.
“You’re too weak, princess,” Akihiko snarled as he struggled to beat her back. “You should let your father or mate finish this for you.”
“Why would I do that?” She growled back. “When I’m barely breaking a sweat with you.” The crowd watched stunned as she punched him in the face and knocked him back before jumping and using both feet to kick him in the chest, knocking him further back. She dropped her sword as she landed and hit him with darts from both of her hands. On his knees, stunned as the poisons worked on him, he watched with everyone as she walked up to him with her sword in her hands. “I guess, you’re the one below me, at your lowest,” she growled before raising her sword. Akihiko stared her in the eye as she prepared to lower it and instead of decapitating him, she shot a final dart between the eyes. “Guess you weren’t the challenge you thought you were.” The crowd roared with approval as everyone cheered and celebrated for their princess as she walked away.
Higashi was surprised to see what his daughter could do, uncertain that the fight in her was no longer there courtesy of everything that happened. They all watched as she walked towards the chairs as the final prisoner was brought out. In the chaos no one had noticed them bring out the block and axe as well. Nikki cleaned her sword as she walked towards them, sheathing it as her father and brothers stood up to greet her. A crier stood on the field and waited as everyone calmed down, Nikki taking her seat next to her father again, as the taiji-ya calmed down and everyone looked at the final prisoner.
“For your crimes against your kingdom, your mate, and your family,” the crier declared as he read the charges against her to the crowd, “you’ve been condemned to the removal of your mating mark, title of queen, and life!” The crowd watched as she remained silent as she was bowed in front of the block. “Do you have anything to declare before your execution?” Everyone remained silent as she stood up and looked around, seeing Nikki as she looked at her mother curiously.
“Why should I die, when she is the one who committed the crimes?” Mai demanded looking at Nikki angrily. Everyone looked at her surprised, they’d figure by now she’d beg for her own life.
“You are saying that your daughter had herself attacked, shackled in the dungeon, beaten, and tortured?” the crier asked confused as a few chuckled at him.
“No, idiot,” Mai spat at him, “I ordered her into the dungeons. But why is it I am the one to die when she is the one who is disobedient of her mother? When she is the one who would lie about having a potential mate? When she is the one strutting around believing she is as good as any male on this field?”
“You should have seen that last execution,” the crier said amused as he tried not to laugh, “she was better than some of the males on this field.” A few chuckled at him as Mai looked at him sourly.
“I lied about nothing,” Nikki responded loudly to her mother. “I did everything I was told to do, to the best of my abilities. But nothing was ever good enough for you.” Sesshomaru looked at Nikki and then her mother, realizing she must have informed her of their plan to mate.
“She doesn’t believe that we are to be mates,” he said to her softly as she nodded.
“I went to the dungeons and told her,” Nikki informed him as Sesshomaru nodded while listening. “She didn’t believe me then either.” Everyone watched as he got up, walking down the line, before pulling her from her chair and kissing her to show there was no lie in his intent for her one day. Mai watched stunned as she was forced to kneel before the block again, while a rather large human in all black came over with a rather large axe. Everyone stopped and watched as he raised that axe above his head and with a single swing and a thud, the removal of Mai’s head.
Higashi stared almost stunned, the boys all looking down, and Sesshomaru hiding Nikki’s eyes as she turned to look. As the shock and awe of it all started to settle in the other lords and heirs pulled the family into the castle. As the afternoon started to settle the family started to mourn.